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The Best Contraptions, and other Rube Goldberg moments

  1. Dec 4, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Personal experience, hearsay, unsupported rumors, famous examples, what are the best examples of "making do" with inferior, or an eclectic and seeming useless selection of parts to successfully solve a real problem?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine

    Probably one of the best known Rube Goldbergs was the CO2 scrubber rigged that saved the lives of three astronauts during the emergency on Apollo 13.

    I would bet that Danger, Zooby, and Wolram can name a few.

    I have to make one tonight by using a collecton of PVC reducers and converters and flanges etc, and some standard HEPA filters, to make a down and dirty inline air filter. It probably took me an hour walking around the hardware store to figure out how to do this with off-the-shelf items, but the real filters were backordered and I need them tomorrow. This one will be running on the ragged edge, but I think it will work.

    It should be noted that epoxy and PVC pipe have been a real boon for the Rube Goldberg industry.
     
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  3. Dec 4, 2006 #2

    robphy

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  4. Dec 4, 2006 #3
    I love that commercial.
     
  5. Dec 5, 2006 #4

    Danger

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    I suspect that almost everything I've ever built falls into that category, since I use whatever I have lying around. As detailed elsewhere, for instance, the head for my 'Alien' Hallowe'en costume was made from:
    a kid's plastic baseball helmet, a dozen feet or so of welding rod, a section of garage door roller track, an electrical junction box, the carriage rack from a mid-50's Royal typewriter, a couple of industrial hard drive ball bearing sets, a small cabinet hinge, a brass gear from a Meccano clockwork motor, a chunk of pink and white yarn, some flattened out steel furnace pipes, part of a tinted motorcycle helmet visor, a magnetic cupboard latch, the rubber sheath from a seatbelt, some elastic thread, a section of piano hinge, a pound or so of Fimo modelling compound, a set of plastic vampire teeth, a sheet of 32# aluminum mesh, some misc. typewriter rods and springs, a half-gallon or so of liquid latex, a roll of duct tape, a bunch of plastic automotive wiring conduit, a pair of typewriter 90-degree bevel gears, a Radio Shack DPDT mini toggle switch, some pop rivets, a couple of chunks of old-style telescoping curtain rod, some black nylon screen, 4 return springs from Schlage 'D' series doorknobs, the support web from a welding helmet, and the 6-way power seat motor pack from a '75 Mustang.
    You don't wanna know about the rest of the suit. :biggrin:

    edit: Ooops... I forgot about the cable clamp and Vaseline...
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2006
  6. Dec 5, 2006 #5

    robphy

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  7. Dec 6, 2006 #6
    There's a distinct difference between a Rube Goldberg device and something that's jury-rigged, or put together from available parts. In the latter, you are making do with whatever is available. In the former you purposely design an extravagantly complex means of performing a simple task. In the jury-rig, any complexity is due to not having something more direct and simple. In designing a Rube Goldberg device the complexity is deliberate and the goal is to have as many unnecessary steps as possible. The Apollo 13 CO2 scrubber was a juryrig. A Porsche is a Rube Goldberg device. It is designed so the owner can't possibly change his own oil, and has to take it in at $300.00 per oil change.
     
  8. Dec 6, 2006 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Zooby, technically you are correct of course, however in my experience the definition is much more general now. One of my business partners even used "Rube Goldberg" as a verb to describe brain storming. But, just in case the definition police dropped by, I included the word contraptions in the title. :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2006
  9. Dec 6, 2006 #8

    turbo

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    Almost everything I build is thrown together out of available parts. When I got sick of emptying and reloading mouse-traps in the woodshed when cold weather came around, I built my own "repeater". I put a few inches of water in a 5-gallon pail, used a board for a ramp and used a piece of cardboard shaped like this [ in cross-section with nails tacked through the cardboard into the edges of the board as a pivot. Trim the cardboard so that it balances in the flat (on the board) position and put a dab of peanut butter on the outboard end of the cardboard. When a mouse smells the peanut butter, climbs the ramp and goes out on the cardboard, his weight flips the cardboard down, dumping him into the bucket, and once his weight is off the cardboard, the ramp resets so the next mouse can give it a go.
     
  10. Dec 6, 2006 #9

    Danger

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    I love it! All you need is a heater under it and you'll have a nice pail of mouse soup waiting when you get home.
     
  11. Dec 6, 2006 #10

    turbo

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    If it gets much colder in the shed, the trap will be making mousicles.
     
  12. Dec 6, 2006 #11
    The reason the definition police are concerned here is a good one, and you should support them in trying to crack down on any spreading of misuse of the term. The intent behind juryrigging and Rube Goldberging is quite different, and that is why the two terms shouldn't be confused. Juryrigging is good, Rube Goldberging is bad. The Wikipedia definition you posted was quite good, I thought, but the Apollo 13 example you offered doesn't fit that definition.

    Rather than invoke Rube Goldberg in conjunction with the kind of juryrigging you wanted to discuss you should have invoked MacGyver, the fictional master of making do with whatever was available.

    I don't know him and didn't hear how he said it, but it could be he thinks that "brainstorming" always ends up as thinking up ways to make things more complicated than they need to be.
     
  13. Dec 7, 2006 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Rather than complicated, convoluted may be a better description when using off-the-shelf items for "proof of concept". It results from the practical reality of cost vs custom manufactured parts.

    But, considering that Rube has an advocacy group, I'll concede the point. And I have heard "MacGyvering" referenced, but he's still alive so technically he can't have a verb named after him.
     
  14. Dec 7, 2006 #13

    Danger

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    :confused:
    He never was alive, Ivan. He's a fictional character.
     
  15. Dec 7, 2006 #14

    turbo

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    Oh, man! First it was Santa, then the Easter Bunny, and now McGyver! :cry:
     
  16. Dec 7, 2006 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    WHAT????!!! :surprised :surprised :surprised

    :rolleyes:
     
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